Expert Tip: An alternative source for RC deaths & burials

Although there are exceptions (dioceses such as Derry, Kilmore and Ferns are examples), most Roman Catholic parishes failed to keep records of death or burial until relatively recent times.

Before the opening of urban civic cemeteries from the early 19th century, all burial grounds were controlled by the Church of Ireland, whose clergy sometimes levied fees on non-Anglican burials.

In rural areas, some pre-Reformation places of burial began to be favoured by Catholics, or they may simply have been abandoned by the Protestants!

So in many areas (especially in urban districts), the local burial ground was used by both groups and it’s worth searching the Church of Ireland burial register for a Catholic burial.

Where RC burial registers survive, the information recorded varies. It can be as little as a name and date (usually of burial rather than death) or it might also include the deceased’s age and home address.

With Church of Ireland registers, while early examples will not be uniform in the information recorded, by the beginning of the 19th century, many entered the deceased’s name, address, occupation, age and dates of death and burial.

Roman Catholics were not identified as such in Church of Ireland registers. But you can make judgements based on certain features. Firstly the names; secondly, so many were buried in the poor ground; and thirdly (I think the biggest clue), the name of a  minister is only ever given for obviously Protestant burials.

Click on the image above to view a good example (file size 1.25mb). Henrietta Mayne and  Samuel Johnston are the only two with the minister’s name noted… and both ministers are Anglicans.  All the other people recorded on the page are very likely RC, given their names.

Of course, St. George’s is also known to have a been a very popular place for burials for all religions until the opening of Glasnevin and Mount Jerome…after which it was used far less often.

Original and microfilm copies of Church of Ireland registers may be found either with the local minister, the RCB Library, the National Archives of Ireland or PRONI. Some indexes, transcripts and images can also be found online. In addition to ad hoc records, there are two major databases:

RootsIreland (pay-per-view) holds records (mostly transcripts) which survived the 1922 conflagration for virtually all of Ireland, and IrishGenealogy (free view) has digitised images (and some transcripts), but only for Carlow, Dublin and Kerry.

Steven Smyrl FIGRS
May 2012

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